Most of us remember reading Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden” in school. Many of us have since revisited its pages at least once or twice. Walden Pond is where Thoreau came up with the content of the book as he lived a simple life surrounded by nature and away from other people. The Walden Pond of today has a beach where people swim under the watchful eye of a lifeguard, but the area is still a beautiful place to get away from it all and think about the observations Thoreau shares with us in his book. You can visit a replica of the 10 x 15 cabin Thoreau called home as well as the site of the original structure.
As you probably know, Concord was the home of many of our nation’s finest authors, including Hawthorne, Thoreau, Anderson, and Alcott. You can easily imagine them seated outside on the porch of The Colonial Inn while engaged in animated conversation. In fact, they often did so. Henry David Thoreau actually resided at the Inn for a time before moving to Walden Pond, where he immersed himself in a natural environment while writing the literary classic “Walden.”
Inside, the Colonial Inn is as authentic and well-maintained as its exterior. A few of the comforts of today are missing, which means the landscape of the Inn is not always easily accessible for those of us with physical limitations. But, it is the realistic details that give the Inn its charm. You will not find an elevator in the Inn, but you will find long narrow staircases with steps that squeak from all the feet that have climbed up and down them. The Inn's inner world is like a magical maze of rooms connected by long, narrow hallways with all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore. The wooden floors even slant and buckle in places. Despite all the authenticity of the building, the Inn does not feel as old, musty, or worn out as you might expect. It feels realistic, interesting, and fun.
Guest rooms in the main Inn are filled with antiques and reproductions that look like the real thing. Some rooms may be on the smallish side, but their décor is lovely, bathrooms are updated, and beds are comfortable. I heard from other guests that the rooms in the Inn’s Prescott Wing are more modern, but I did not take a look for myself. The Inn offers suites as well. Some are in separate buildings near the main Inn. I was told the accommodations are perfect for families or larger groups that want to stay together.
When I checked in at the Inn's reception desk, I must admit I experienced a bit of "culture shock." You see...I did not receive a small, plastic rectangle designed to slide perfectly inside my wallet. Instead, I was handed a key to my room. Yes, a real, old-fashioned key that I had to fit it in the door’s lock and then turn. It took a little getting used to... but I quickly came to love the sound of the "click" when my key did its job successfully.
I learned from hotel staff that countless renovations have been made to the Inn over the years. The changes are not obvious and have not touched the historic atmosphere of the place. The facility has been upgraded just enough to keep guests comfortable, happy, and coming back for more.
Dining in the Inn’s restaurants is an enchantingly unique experience. You can grab a quick meal and a drink in a colonial tavern setting or sit down to a full meal in a charmingly “dated” dining room. The menu is filled with traditional New England cuisine. Seasonal patio dining is available when weather permits. Personally, I was entranced to find that I happened to be “grabbing a burger and a beer” in a room that had once served as a storeroom for weapons during the American Revolution.
The best part about staying at the Colonial Inn is the fact that there are so many historic sites to visit within such close proximity. You could easily fill a week just visiting landmarks in Concord alone. Of course, Lexington (another town significant to our nation’s brave fight for independence) is right next door and the city of Boston (think “one if by land, two if by sea) is just a short drive away.
Orchard House is the home where Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women,” the novel based on her life growing up with her sisters in Concord. The dwelling has gone through surprisingly few changes since the Alcott family lived there. The majority of the furnishings that are displayed throughout the building were actually owned by the family, which makes walking through the rooms almost like walking through the pages of “Little Women.”
* Just one "seasoned" (older) traveler's observations. Not to be considered a review or endorsement by Seasoned Times.
The Old North Bridge is where colonial “minutemen” turned back British troops on April 19, 1775. The battle signaled the start of the American Revolution. The wooden bridge is beautiful in its simplicity and a very convincing replica of the one that existed in 1775. The structure spans the flowing Concord River. The site is surrounded by woods, fields, and flowers. It also is home to an easily recognizable statue of the “Minuteman,” which is commonly used in books and elsewhere as an illustration that symbolizes the revolutionary war era.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is not your typical cemetery. It is a very peaceful, serene place to spend time. Many other cemeteries are structured with a standard grid pattern of roadways. Sleepy Hollow features gently curving routes that follow the contour of its natural setting. The cemetery is well-known for a section called “Author’s Ridge,” where literary giants Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne are buried.
The Robbins House, also near the Old North Bridge, was relocated to its current setting from a nearby location. The early 19th century house is a small, one-and-a-half story, two-room dwelling built by descendants of Caesar Robbins. Robbins was a former slave as well as a veteran of the American Revolution. The house is heaped in history about the antislavery movement and the experiences, challenges, and contributions of early African Americans.
The Old Manse is just steps away from the Old North Bridge.It is a rustic relic of a home that looks as old as it truly is, and it is as interesting as you might expect. From its upper floor, you can look out a window and see the Old North Bridge and imagine what it must have been like to watch the April 19, 1775 battle unfold. The Old Manse was once home to authors Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne. You can still read poems scratched in panes of window glass in one bedroom window.
I want to stand in the footprints of others who came before me, to see what they saw, and maybe even breathe in some of the same air they breathed in. Whether it is a ruin across the world or some location a little closer to home, many spots on earth still carry a sense of all their yesterdays. They transport you from present day life and take you back in time.
The Colonial Inn in Concord, MA, is one of those places. The hotel wraps you in a cloak that seems to strip away the years to leave you standing in an era when the United States of America was in its infancy. Not just for a moment, but for your entire stay at the Inn.
While a guest at The Colonial Inn, I found myself in one of the most authentic historic hotel settings I can imagine exists anywhere in the United States. I felt as if I might walk out of my room and bump right into a colonial soldier headed out to take part in the battle at the Old North Bridge... the battle that ignited the American Revolution. The Old North Bridge is not very far from the Inn and the site is just one of many well-preserved landmarks in Concord (see below).
The Colonial Inn was built in 1716 and has been a fully operational inn and restaurant since 1889. It is located in a beautiful section of historic downtown Concord called “Monument Square.” From outside, the Inn's colonial feel draws you in. It looks like a big, old beautiful home untouched since our country’s earliest days, complete with a front porch for people to gather and talk.
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